From playwrights and lighting designers to artistic directors and actors, young women from across the East Midlands have had a unique insight into the world of women who have led the way in the theatre industry.
The project, Lights Up has been conceived by Fifth Word theatre company in partnership with Derby City Library, and support from Derby Theatre. It has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Through interviews, photography and podcasts, young women are documenting the part that pioneering women have played in shaping the theatre landscape of the region. These young women received training in photography, film and oral history capture delivered by an all- female team of practitioners.
Angharad Jones, joint Artistic Director of Fifth Word, said: “Lights Up aims to better record women’s experiences and achievements, and to help redress that balance acknowledging that women have always been 50 % of the population but only occupy around 0.5% of recorded history.”
She continued: “We are delighted that so many brilliant women agreed to be interviewed as part of this project. They are all pioneers, game changers and have made a real, lasting, and tangible difference to the world of theatre. Especially for us who call the East Midlands home.”
Young women, between the ages of 16- 21 have curated this living history project, the content of which has been documented in a bespoke website and a series of podcasts. Each ‘episode’ features an interview with a pioneering woman in theatre, who in some way has a connection to the East Midlands.
There are nine episodes in total. The woman featured are:
Jenny Sealey (Artistic Director, Graeae Theatre Company) Indhu Rubasingham (Artistic Director, Kiln Theatre) Sarah Brigham (Artistic Director and CEO of Derby Theatre) Sonali Bhattacharyya (Playwright) Ava Hunt (Theatre maker and Actor) Emteaz Hussain (Playwright) Alex Stafford- Marshall (Lighting Designer) Esther Richardson (Artistic Director, Pilot Theatre) Amanda Whittington (Playwright)
(Please note – these interviews were recorded January – March 2020, before Covid 19 and before the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the unlawful killing of George Floyd.)
These fascinating conversations chart the individual experiences of each woman bringing to light first memories of theatre and how their background informs their work; cutting their teeth and the ‘big breaks’; coping with challenges and setbacks and offering practical advice to the next generation. This collection of interviews are inspiring, honest and, at times, funny and infuriating as they explore what it feels like to be a woman in this industry.
On why she got involved, playwright Amanda Whittington said: “Growing up in 1980’s Nottingham, playwrights seemed to exist in a very different world to mine. As a teenager, there were no female role models I could look to and say “She’s done it, so maybe I could? But as Lights Up shows, I wasn’t alone. I was incredibly fortunate to be a part of this community of East Midlands theatre-makers who reshaped the landscape for young women and girls. By sharing our stories, I hope we’ll empower the next generation to find their voice and their place in theatre.”
Lights Up website and podcast will be unveiled during Derby Theatre’s Check In Festival on Friday 28th May. There will be a sharing of a short behind the scenes/ making of documentary and a panel discussion with Jenny Sealey, Amanda Whittington, Sarah Brigham, Sonali Bhattacharyya and the participants of the project hosted by Fifth Word joint Artistic Director, Angharad Jones. Tickets can be booked here.
To find out more about the Lights Up project and to listen to the series of podcasts, please visit http://www.lights-up.fifthword.co.uk/